In 1992, after nearly 5 years during which there were no California condors living outside of captivity, condors returned to the wilds of southern California. Since 1992, condors have also returned to their former habitats in central California, the Grand Canyon area, and Baja California.


So it should not be surprising that the word return is frequently found in the titles of articles about the California condor. For example, the image above shows the title of Linda Litchfield’s article in the Spring 1993 issue of ZooLife magazine.

In this post, I note articles and books about the California condor’s return.

In 1991, articles appeared anticipating the release of California condors from captivity to the wild:

Toone, William. “Return of the California Condor.” Zoonooz. January 1991.

Reinhold, Robert. “Savaged, Then Saved by Man, Condors Will Return to Wild.” New York Times. 2 August 1991.

When condors were transported to an aviary at the release site, this was front-page news in the Los Angeles Times:

Stammer, Larry B. “1st California Condors Return to Reclaim Wild.” Los Angeles Times. 11 October 1991.

In retrospect, the 1st sentence of Stammer’s article may seem to overstate the significance of a transfer of birds from one cage to another:

In a momentous step toward the revival of an endangered species, two zoo-bred California condors were airlifted Thursday into the rugged wilderness of Ventura County to reclaim their prehistoric heritage.

However, moving the condors out of a zoo and into an aviary within their former habitat was a critical step in the return of the species to the wild.

Three months later, Stammer was back on the front page when the 2 condors left their release-site aviary:

Stammer, Larry B, and Joanna M Miller. “First Captive California Condors Freed in Wild.” Los Angeles Times. 15 January 1992.

The words of Stammer and Miller were just right for this occasion:

Two endangered California condors made biological history Tuesday as the first of their kind allowed to roam the wild since 1987 ….

Articles about subsequent releases of condors in California include some with evocative titles:

Pols, Mary F. “4 Bold Condors Return to the Wild.” Los Angeles Times. 14 February 1996.

Reed, Susan K., and Lorenzo Benet. “Return of the Native.” People. 10 February 1992.

“Last Wild Female California Condor Taken into Captivity Is Returned to the Wild.” Ornithological Newsletter. October 2000.

In 1996, California condors were released in Arizona, marking their return there after nearly a century of absence. Among the articles celebrating this event was one by Rick Heffernon in the September 1997 issue of Arizona Highways magazine:


In 1997, condors were released in Monterey County, along the central California coast. But given that “Los Angelenos” often consider any part of California north of their city to be northern California, this Los Angeles Times article’s title is not surprising:

“Condors Return to Northern California.” Los Angeles Times. 21 January 1997.

In 2002, condors were released in Baja California:

Stockton, Denise. “California Condors Return to Mexico.” Endangered Species Bulletin. June 2003.

Several years later, one of these condors flew north, back into the USA:

Perry, Tony. “Condor Returns to San Diego County.” Vulture News. September 2007.

In the future, California condors may be released to former habitat in northwestern California:

Barnard, J. “Yurok Tribe Works for Return of Condor to Northwest to Help Fix World Gone Wrong.” Los Angeles Times. 18 August 2009.

In addition to many articles, 2 books about the California condor include return in their titles:

Moir, John. Return of the Condor: The Race to Save Our Largest Bird from Extinction. Guilford. 2006.

Osborn, Sophie A. H. Condors in Canyon Country: The Return of the California Condor to the Grand Canyon Region. Grand Canyon Association. 2007.

While return has positive and appropriate connotations, Todd Wilkinson found another, perhaps more touching, way to describe the condor’s return to the wild:


Wilkinson’s “Homecoming” appeared in the May 1996 issue of National Parks magazine (the article title spread across 2 pages).

Before California condors returned to the wild, many expected the species would go extinct. In other words, there could have been a last condor. For a look at when and how last appeared in titles of published items about the condor, see my earlier post: Last.